Tag Archives: current work

Ida B Wells portrait in fabric on the quilt Women's Work. Ida is wearing orange dress typical of 1940's. Her hair is in a know on top of her head. She is arm in arm with Gloria Steinem

Ida B. Wells on Women’s Work

Ida B. Wells (1862–1931appears on Women’s Work on the main level of the quilt, walking arm in arm with Gloria Steinem.  She is included because of her contributions as a journalist, and is notable for her investigative reporting on lynching in America.

Ida was born to slave patents in Holly Springs, Mississippi on July 16, 1862.  However, at the age of 6 months, she and her family were freed by the Emancipation Proclamation.  Following the civil war, her parents were active in Reconstruction.  Her father joined the Freedman’s Aid Society and helped star

head and shoulders sketch of Ida B Wells, circa 1940.

Journalist, Ida B Wells. Circa 1940.

t Shaw University.  This school for newly freed slaves is where Ida received her early schooling.

At age of 16, Ida lost both parents and an infant brother in a Yellow Fever outbreak.  As the oldest, she had to care for younger brothers and sisters. So, she convinced a local school administrator that she was 18 and was hired as a teacher. Over the next few years, Ida arranged for her brothers to work as carpenter apprentices, and moved her sisters to live with an aunt in Memphis, Tennessee.  Ida returned to college and honed her journalistic skills at Fisk University and continued to work as a teacher.

Injustice in the South

In 1884, Ida bought a first class train ticket in Memphis. She boarded the train, but was denied a seat in first class.  The conductor told to sit in the car reserved for blacks.  Ida refused and an argument ensued.  The conductor and fellow passengers forcibly removed her from the train.  Ida sued the train company and won a $500 settlement in a circuit court.  On appeal, the Tennessee Supreme Court overturned the ruling, and charged Ida for court fees.  Outraged, she channeled her energy into several editorial articles published in black newspapers.  Using the pseudonym “Iona,” she criticized Jim Crow laws and treatment of blacks in the south.  Eventually, Ida owned and published her own newspaper, Free Speech, in Memphis.

In 1892, three balck men opened a grocery store in Memphis.  Their success drew customers from the white owned store across the street. One night, a group of white men gathered to vandalize the store.  In defending the shop, several white men were shot and injured.  Officials arrested the black store owners.  Later that evening, a white mob took them from their cells and hung them.

Investigation of Lynching

Outraged by the death of her friends, Ida carried out her own investigation of

Cover of book The Red Record by Ida B Wells, showing image of a lynching party.

The Red Record, documents lynching in America

lynching in the South. First, she published her findings in a pamphlet titled Southern Horrors. Later, she traveled to give lectures and wrote a book, A Red Record, detailing the treatment of blacks in the south.   She documented the practice of lynching black men who challenged the authority of whites, or dared to be successful in politics, or business. Using her words, she effectively painted a picture of conditions for blacks in the South.  In a speech she delivered in Boston on February 13, 1893, Ida reported, 

…since invested with citizenship, the race has been indicted for ignorance, immorality and general worthlessness declared guilty and executed by its self constituted judges. The operations of law do not dispose of negroes fast enough, and lynching bees have become the favorite pastime of the South.

The brutal honesty of her reporting angered whites who descended on her newspaper office, destroyed the presses,   The mob proved her words correct when they threatened to kill her if she returned to Memphis.  Ida escaped to England where she continued her anit-lynching campaign, and brought international attention to racial injustice in America.

In 1895, Ida returned to the US, settled in Chicago, and married Ferdinand Barnett, a lawyer and newspaper editor. Together, they raised 4 children and continued to fight social injustice on many fronts. Ida was active in several social justice issues, including women’s suffrage, and equal education for blacks.  She was a co-founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Ida continued to write and lecture in the US, and abroad, until her death in 1931.

The False Characterization

Ida’s investigative reporting  uncovered a common justification for lynching. Whites  justified the murder of black men with the assertion that those men would sexually assault white women. Essentially, whites believed that lynching was necessary to protect the virtue of their wives and daughters. 

It is important to note here, that multiple sources, over many decades, consistently show that sexual violence data, disaggregated by race, shows that perpetrators are most likely to be white. In fact, sexual violence by whites occurs at a level of more than double that of blacks. For current statistics visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website: RAINN.org.

My personal take away…

The research for Ida B Wells on Women’s Work led me to a startling realization.  The false notion that black men are inherently “dangerous” exists in my own consciousness. Growing up in a white suburb of Kansas City, I had very few interactions with blacks, so how did I learn this? Upon reflection, I realized that the lessons were part of my growing up. For example, when my family drove into the city, through predominantly black sections of town, my parents instructed us to lock our doors. Now, in my 50’s, I’m adamant that I’m not racist.  However, driving through Denver, the thought that I should lock my car door sometimes pops into my mind.  Those irrational ideas still echo in my head.  Because I’m aware, I will stop it, and I’ll speak up when others perpetuate that idea.

See the Women’s Work Quilt

See Ida B Wells on Women’s Work in person. This quilt will  debut as a featured work in the exhibit Women’s Voices, Women’s Votes, Women’s Rights, at the Clinton Presidential Library, in September 2021.  Look for more details on the Events page of this website. Follow this blog for more stories of amazing women. Follow this link to see more of Lea’s Portrait Quilts.

Learn more about Ida B. Wells…

Biography.com Editors (2020, June 24). Ida B. Wells Biography. A&E Television Networks and the Biography.com website. https://www.biography.com/activist/ida-b-wells

Norwood, Arlisha (2017). Ida B. Wells-Barnett. National Women’s History Museum.  www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/ida-wells-barnett.

Steptoe, T. (2007, January 19) Ida Wells-Barnett (1862-1931). BlackPast.org. https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/barnett-ida-wells-1862-1931/ 

Editors of BlackPast.org (2007, January 29). Ida B. Wells, “Lynch Law In All Its Phases” transcript of speech delivered at Boston’s Tremont Temple on February 13, 1893,as published in Our Day magazine, May 1893.  BlackPast.org. https://www.blackpast.org/uncategorized/1893-ida-b-wells-lynch-law-all-its-phases/ 

Ida B Wells, The Red Record Lynching in the United States. Available free through pdfbooksworld.com. https://www.pdfbooksworld.com/The-Red-Record-by-Ida-B-Wells-Barnett

Wells-Barnett, Ida B., “Southern horrors : lynch law in all its phases,” Digital Public Library of America, http://dp.la/item/3f4d5d3a67f8ce16f1b00b3cb01dc143

Ida B. Wells, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing front. , None. [Between 1940 and 1960?] Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/2009633545/.

Share
Women's Work by moonlight

Women’s Work: When Will It End?!?

Women’s Work, a masterwork that has consumed, and fed, my artistic spirit for the last year and half, may finally be coming to an end.  This journey started in September 2019, when I was approached by a representative from the Clinton Foundation about creating an art quilt for Women’s Voices, Women’s Votes, Women’s Rights.  This is an exhibit to celebrate the 100th anniversary of women getting the right to vote in the US.  Originally scheduled to open at the Clinton Presidential Library in September 2020, COVID-19 delayed the opening 1 year.  Not to diminish the devastating effects of this virus, but isolating at home gave me the opportunity to create the most ambitious project I’ve ever attempted.

What do you want to do?

This question stopped me in my tracks.  Initially, I couldn’t decide on a single person or event to celebrate in my work; there are just too many options.  The more I researched, the more difficult the decision became. Finally, inspired by Raphael’s painting, School of Athens, I realized that I could create a piece celebrating the work of dozens of women whose voices and deeds have contributed to the fight for women’s votes, rights, and equality.

Inspiration for Women's Work

Raphael’s painting titled School of Athens.

My vision:

In my mind, I saw a gathering of women representing a variety of time periods and vocations, and gifts. I would group them by theme to demonstrate how women’s work has progressed through the centuries, with each generation building on the progress of the previous.

Now, this was a bold, big idea, and big ideas need big space, so I decided to make the piece 10 feet wide and 8 feet tall.  The unintended consequences of this decision are fodder for a  future blog post titled “Bloopers and Blunders”.

How Do You Eat an Elephant?

Having a vision for Women’s Work, and knowing how to bring that vision to fruition are two very different things.  My progress stalled as I just couldn’t decide what to do next. The project was enormous; something like eating an elephant.

One Bite at a Time.

Women's work: Lea drawing a life-size pattern of the quilt

Drawing the pattern

Finally, in November 2019, this vision took off in 2 directions. First, create an appropriate setting

for the composition. Second, choose the women to be represented in the quilt.  The project started to disaggregate into bite size pieces, and I found a way forward.  Hungry for progress, I began to devour the tasks.

On physically active days, I drew a life-sized pattern and built structures from fabric.  I discovered that organza made a great glass ceiling, as pillars morphed into caryatids. All the while, insufficient amounts of fabric prompted creative design decisions.

Women's Work: progress photo shows entry, steps, floor, wing walls, glass ceiling, pediment carving and distant sky

Distant sky is creative solution when there is not enough fabric.

Women's Work: shows first 2 phases of creating building setting of the pictorial quilt.

Glass ceiling and marble floor.

 

 

 

 

 

Women's Work in progress: working out statuary.

Working out statuary with paper versions.

On mentally active days, I researched women and their achievements. Going “old school”, I

Lea doing research for Women's Work

Lea, conducting research for Women’s Work

wrote information about each woman on a 3×5 notecards.  Over and over, I laid them out, rearranged,, stacked, and paper clipped them.

Now, with Women’s Work is nearly complete, I’m impatient to share what I have done. Please, subscribe to this blog to get the full story. (A pop up window will appear when you leave this page.)  In the months to come, I’ll share essays about the women who are depicted in the work, (there are more than 50) and tell you more stories about how the quilt was made. Later, when the conditions are right, I invite you will join me to see the quilt in person.

Women's Work by moonlight

Solo exhibit in the time of COVID

 

Share

New Work: Dogs & Cats

My last blog entry was last summer when I gave a teaser about my new work, and now, we’re fully in the winter holiday season. Has it really been that long?  The winter solstice, at our house, is a time to stop and reflect on the events & accomplishments of the closing year, and set goals and expectations for the approaching year.

Body Building

I set a goal last year to lose some weight and get in shape (sound familiar?). My body building efforts were really about  building up a body of new work.

Got Kibble? at CF Gallery opening,

Got Kibble? is just one of the new works that I completed this year.  It was a hands-down favorite at my show in the Creative Framing Gallery in Louisville, CO in Sep-Oct.  Pet compositions are fun to show in the Boulder area is because we are such an animal oriented community.

 

 

Cat Nap, 44″ x 24″, fabric & thread, © Lea McComas, 2018.

Not to be left out, that other favorite pet, the cat, is featured in my new piece, “Cat Nap”.  This work was inspired by a photo I took while traveling in Greece, back in the mid-1990’s.

Pet Portrait class sample

Previously, I completed a couple of small studies using this image.  Two versions were made for my online Pet Portrait class. Here is one with a tetrad color scheme. Prior to that,  a small work was donated to a charity event. Finally, after 20 years, the full up composition has come to fruition. Now, it’s subtle charm makes it one of my new favorites.

Cats VS Dogs?

At the show, a survey of viewers revealed that cats are more popular pets than dogs. Now, I’m getting a lot of pressure (and fun photos) for a series featuring cats.  What about you? Are you a dog person? or a cat person?

I’m thinking dogs rule.

    Cats rule, Dogs drool!

Stay tuned, there is more work to share in a future blog. In the meantime, if you’ve been inspired to attempt your own pet portrait in fabric, check out my online Pet Portrait Memory class with The Quilting Company.

No time for that?!?  I do commission work.  Contact me and let’s talk about capturing a favorite image of your pet in fabric and thread.

Border Wall Quilt Project

Can’t write a blog without mentioning the Border Wall Quilt Project.  We’re still accepting bricks and the wall continues to grow.  

Share

Time for a New Pet Portrait: Got Kibble?

Upcoming Exhibition

Yes, I’ve actually found time to create new original artwork this summer.  The last several

Lea at the Creative Framing Art Gallery

I’ll be in good company

months have been packed with travel, teaching, and the Border Wall Quilt Project, but I’ve still carved out some time to focus on several new works of art, including a new pet portrait.  I’ll be a featured artist at the Creative Framing Art Gallery in Louisville, CO in the months of September-October, and these new pieces will be fully revealed at that time. If your in the area, please save the date: Sep. 7, 2018 for the opening reception, 6-9 PM.  

New Pet Portrait in the Dog’s Life Series

For now, let me share a sneak preview of what’s to come. . . .

Background detail of Got Kibble?

Some of my hand dyed fabric in the background

Face detail of Got Kibble?

Detail of dog

I often find inspiration from my students as I travel and teach.  In Ft. Collins, CO a student shared a photo of her, “Crazy dog!”  I had to agree, he looked pretty crazy, but also endearing.  With her permission, I’ve done a new, larger than life, pet portrait.

I find that animal portraits don’t demand the same level of precision as portraits of people. This is just one more way that animals are more forgiving than humans.  In this piece, the fabric does a lot of the work.  The edges are raw and fuzzy and add a bit of dimension.  I’ve done less thread-painting to keep those edges visible. It’s more like thread-sketching, and it’s great fun when you have to balance a new work with another new project that has a steep learning curve and lots of moving parts.

Plan to come and see this piece in person.  Come to the reception and see me in person, too.

Border Wall Quilt Project: Section 3 Under Construction

OH, and that other new project is the Border Wall Quilt Project.  Follow the link or follow me on Facebook and Instagram to see photos of the individual bricks and the process.  There is still time to register and submit your own bricks.  

Share

Moving from Fabric to Thread

Shifting gears, moving to the next phase, changing the focus; that’s what I’ve been doing in these last couple of weeks as I transition from the fusing stage of my project to the stitching stage.  I find it helpful to take a break and clear my head so that I can look at the project with fresh eyes.  So, during this period, an idea that has been floating around in my brain for several years actually came alive and demanded to be brought to creation.  I’ll img_1201share that with you in a few weeks.  It is a total departure from this project and did allow for the fresh perspective I needed.

Before going of on this side trip, the fused fabric foundation for “We Don’t Talk” was loaded onto my longarm machine.  You can see here all of the layers and how they are placed.  If you’ve done your own thread painting, you may know that it is always a struggle to end with a piece that lies flat.  I’m always on the quest for a better solution.  In the past, I’ve used a layer of raw artist canvas. This has been marginally successful, so, this time I will use 2 layers positioned under the batting so that the grains are perpendicular to each other.  I’m giving it a shot, but the tradeoff is weight.  This baby is going to be heavy for it’s size.img_1199

(2 weeks go by)

Thread, thread, so much thread needed.  Just as with my fabrics, I like to create selections for each element in the project, and just like with fabric, I use my trusty value scale to make good choices.  However, with threads, I usually put together sets of 7-10 threads: one each of the #1 and 5 values, and then two or three each of values 2,3,4.  However, given the size of the figure in this piece, I may have 3-5 threads in every value.  Here is what it looks like in my studio when the threads come out to play.img_1200

Hmmm, I think I’ll start on the face first.  Check back next week to see the progress.

 

 

Share

Puppy Love, Part 1

Maya & Coco

Maya’s selfie

This week I’ve jumped back into my art with gusto.  I’m tired of being on hold. I need to be creative!!  With a 4-day weekend and plans to pack and move postponed (again!) it was time to make up for lost time.

4" x 6" thread painting.

4″ x 6″ thread painting.

 

This past week has been devoted to making a piece titled “Puppy Love”.  I’ve done smaller versions of this piece in the past for small art auction donation pieces, but this one is big and bold.

It started with a selfie taken by my step-daughter, Maya with our little dachshund, Coco.  While previous versions were printed on fabric and thread-painted, this one is raw-edge fused appliqué and 30″ x 40″.

My color scheme is an analogous run of yellow-orange, orange, red, red-violet.  This kind of scheme tends to be calm and mellow, so, to punch it up, I threw in some blue-green.color scheme

A couple of marathon work days, and the piece was nearly completed.  Selecting the background fabric had me stalled for day as I just couldn’t decide.  I took audition photos with my phone and toggled back and forth between the shots until I was able to make a decision.

Background option 1

Background option 1

Background option 2

Background option 2

 

 

Now, it’s on to the stitching.  I’m going to try something new and will share that with you next week. Check back in next week.

Share

“No” to the Nose

original nose

Original photo

When I thread paint, I rely on the thread to do the bulk of the work.  My technique allows me to blend colors and create subtle shading and contours, as if I were working with paint. In my process I find that there is an OTZ (Optimum Thread Zone).  Stitching below the zone creates what I consider dense quilting, and stitching above the zone overloads the fabric and causes it to expand and buckle.

With this in mind, I consider the facelift that is needed by my horse. As mentioned last week, the shape of the nose needs some adjusting.  However, having applied heavy stitching to the face already, there is a limited amount of thread that can be added without exceeding the OTZ. This means I need to get it right, right away.

In the original photo, the horse is moving his head as the photo is snapped, so it is blurred and doesn’t provide the details that I need.  It is off to the internet to find images of horse heads that face the right direction, at a similar angle, and in the right light.  I also look to reference books of paintings done by several Western artists.

sketch of nose on plastic sheet

sketch of nose on plastic sheet

 

 

Next, I place a clear plastic sheet over the face of my horse and outline its shape and key lines with a red marker.  That sheet is then set on a white background where  black lines  indicate where stitching is to be added or changed.  In this way, I can audition the additional stitching, erase, and redo as needed until it’s right.

 

 

 

 

 

Back at the longarm frame, I keep this plastic sheet handy and begin the facelift.  In addition to creating a more boxy snout, highlights were added around the nostril and above the eye to give them more depth.

Facelift results

Facelift results

First Face

First Face

 

Share